EMI Sweden’s director speaks about his company, Roxette, and the Swedish music industry
EDITOR'S NOTE: The Daily Roxette's Angie Perrault, who is currently in college and studying for a career in the music industry, spoke recently with Stefan Gullberg, the director of EMI Svenka AB, about the strengths and weaknesses of his company, the state of the Swedish music industry, and - of course - Roxette.
What follows is a transcript of that telephone interview:
The Daily Roxette: We came across an article from back in 1994 that stated that 80% of EMI Svenska’s repertoire was recorded in Swedish, do you know what that percentage is today? Is it still pretty high?
Stefan Gullberg: Yeah, well, if you mean the music that we are repertoire only
for…obviously we are distributing and marketing American and English
repertoire as well, repertoire from all over the world. But I would guess
probably 75% is recorded in Swedish from the local repertoire.
TDR: Do you think that’s a strength or a weakness?
SG: I think it’s a strength. It’s also about the culture I think. The
culture within the company has been… it’s the oldest company in Sweden. It’s
100 years next year and we have a huge catalog with local Swedish artists.
So even though we have actually the last couple of years been much more in
English in order to try to exploit it. If you have success like we had with
Roxette, for example, you try…
TDR: Has there been any recent local language crossover success in other
SG: It hasn’t actually. We tried with a…we’ve had a couple radio airplays all
around the world but no real successes in that respect. But we’re working on
TDR: Did Marie Fredriksson’s Greatest Hits album get some airplay in Norway? The Daily Roxette had such a report.
SG: Oh yeah. It was successful also sales-wise in Norway. It was I think close to a platinum album and it was 3 times platinum here in Sweden.
TDR: Is there still a lot of collaboration going on between EMI Svenska artists like there was in the 70s and 80s?
SG: No, not really. Not as much as it used to be. You know, lots of those people… those times… they were from Halmstad - where Per and Marie are from - so they sort of knew each other from way back. But nowadays they are from all over Sweden.
TDR: I heard recently that EMI Svenska is doing better than other operating units, is that true?
SG: Well I’m happy you heard that. Yeah I think so. No (laughter) I think we’re doing very well. We’re doing very well and I can’t tell you if were doing better than all of them but we’re doing most possible among the best.
TDR: Is there anything in particular that you can attribute that to?
SG: I would say that we are still good in local repertoire, we are doing good
business with local repertoire. But also I think that we have been successful
in marketing artists signed with the UK company as well. We are very
successful with some of the major artists like Robbie Williams and Gorrillaz.
TDR: Is it getting any easier to break Swedish artists in the UK?
SG: No. That’s proven not to be that easy.
TDR: We picked up an Aftonbladet story recently that said Per Gessle had stated Roxette is giving up on the US.
Do you think there might be any chance for them, or is that pretty much done?
SG: I think that for the time being they’re not focusing on America. But you
never know, times are changing and music is coming back. You never know
what’s in next year or in five years time. I don’t know if you can compare
Roxette to ABBA but you see the success ABBA has now and all over the world 20
years after they quit. It’s quite interesting to see. And Roxette is Swedish
pop music as well. So who knows.
TDR: You have a lot of big releases planned for this quarter as usual. Which
ones do you think will be your biggest sellers?
SG: Well, the Swedish artrists, we have just released an album by a debut
artist called The Plan which is a fantastic new band I think and we have big
hopes for them. We have a couple of other Swedish artists called Kaah and an
old artists called Taube which is huge here in Sweden. They’re going to be
focused on those for Christmas. We also have huge albums by Pink Floyd and
Robbie Williams which we obviously believe we can do really well with.
TDR: Is Kaah like R&B or urban music?
SG: Yeah, it’s a bit like Prince sort of…its more funky R&B-ish. But its more
funky- it sounds a bit dated to when I say it but it’s not, it’s very cool
actually. It’s in Swedish language. But The Plan is not, it’s in English.
It’s more typical Swedish but it’s more guitar driven. It’s really good.
TDR: Have they been getting any airplay in the UK?
SG: No, we haven’t started off yet. We’ve sort of just been doing it here
first but we’ve heard some good reactions from the UK and also from elsewhere
in Europe so I think it might cross.
TDR: Have radio stations in Sweden broaden their formats or is it still that
“narrowcasting” as it was when it first started?
SG: I think radio stations all over Europe and possibly more in Scandinavia,
well at least in Sweden where the commercial radio is so powerful. There are
so many, all of them are playing the same things. With The Plan for example
they don’t get any airplay at those kinds of stations. Just national radio is
supporting it, which national radio is more compared to Radio One in the UK
where they actually pick up new bands and new things. The commercial stations
are playing very much already proven hits like Destiny’s Child…
TDR: Do you have any particular hopes for the future of EMI since it is under
so much pressure?
SG: I think EMI is very well structured in many ways. We have a great artist
roster. The company is nothing without its artists and I think we do have
great artists. Obviously we need to be doing a bit better in America. We’re
not involved as much in the black area which I think will change. There’s a
lot of issues around America in general but I think that’s going to be the key
for EMI. EMI Europe, I can only talk for the Swedish company obviously, we do
have great expectations for this company for the next 10-15 years I think we
could do very well.
TDR: Thanks for taking the time to speak with us.
Technical errors may occur.